July 2015 archive

12 Angry Men.

I’ve been on a jury.

Someone claimed someone else had run their truck up and down the side of their car, which was parked, and had not only damaged the car but also injured them (because they were in the car at the time) and left them with a permanent disability for which they were seeking damages from the insurance company of the truck driver.

I have never before (and never since) been treated to a fantasy based on such a transparently thin tissue of lies.

Oh, this is definitely one of those ‘both sides do it’ real life experiences that have no satisfactory resolutions.  Both the injured party and truck driver claimed they were ‘inspecting a construction site’.  At 1 am.  In a section of town notorious for street drug dealing.  Right.  I was born, but it wasn’t yesterday.

While the plaintiff (the injured party seeking damages) set out to confuse us with photos of the damaged car artfully posed between 2 total wrecks that had absolutely no relation to the case at all, they did in fact show tire marks that clearly matched the tires on the truck in question (which were not common).

The defendant claimed, of course, that it wasn’t him and besides he had taken off from the encounter in the 180 degree opposite direction than the plaintiff said.  This was indisputably contradicted by the pictures which definitively showed the direction of the impact (tire marks, duh).

To counter this the defense, which is to say the insurance company, brought in an ‘expert’- a retired State Police Officer who had been in charge of Accident Investigation for (mumblety) years.

And he flat out lied to us on the jury.

I glanced around at my fellows and found no indication that it had even registered which I soon found was entirely true.

We had sat on this case for 3 weeks which is unusually long in a civil action for damages and when we got to the jury room I was the lone hold out for the plaintiff.

‘But he lied,’ said I.  ‘Look, I can prove it!’

Nope.  They bought it hook line and sinker.  The Officer was an expert, and who was I?  Just some guy prolonging the agony in a forgone conclusion.

It’s not exactly my finest hour or twelve.  I held out for a day and a half, but the truth was that the plaintiff’s case fell completely apart on it’s second leg- damages.  There was no proof at all that he had actually been in the car when it was struck AND, since he was already 30% permanently disabled, it was hard to argue based on a shyster (made their living by testifying) Chiropractor’s (on my list of Voodoo right after Economics, Mormonism, and Scientology) testimony that there had been an increase.

So I relented with conditions that I’m sure were promptly ignored but it reinforced a lesson I’d learned a long, long time ago-

Policemen lie, under oath, as easily as they breathe.  How can you tell?  Their lips are moving.

What brings this up?

Officers at Sam DuBose scene involved in death of another unarmed black man

by Ryan Felton and Oliver Laughland, The Guardian

Friday 31 July 2015 15.22 EDT

In court documents obtained by the Guardian and filed by Brinson’s family in a civil suit against UC police and the hospital, all seven officers are accused of using excessive force and “acted with deliberate indifference to the serious medical and security needs of Mr Brinson”.

According to the lawsuit, before Brinson was placed in restraints he “repeatedly yelled that slavery was over and he repeatedly pleaded not to be shackled and not to be treated like a slave”.

The documents named University of Cincinnati officers Eric Weibel and Phillip Kidd – the same men who, in a formal report, supported officer Ray Tensing’s claim that he was “dragged” by DuBose’s vehicle on 19 July.

Tensing’s account that he was “dragged” was used as justification for the lethal use of force. It was later dismissed as an attempt to mislead investigators and as “making an excuse for the purposeful killing of another person” by the Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph Deters, who charged Tensing with murder on Wednesday.

Weibel and Kidd?  Do you really need to ask?

No charges for additional Cincinnati police officers

By Amanda Sakuma, MSNBC

07/31/15 01:53 PM

A grand jury has decided to not indict additional Cincinnati police officers involved in the investigation into the death of an unarmed black man who was shot in the head during a routine traffic stop earlier this month, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters announced Friday.

Kidd and Lindenschmidt were on the scene moments later, guns drawn as Tensing reaches into the car to kill the engine. In additional body camera footage, the officers are heard claiming they saw Tensing be pulled by the car.

“Did you see him being dragged?” a responding officer asks.

“Yes,” University of Cincinnati officer Phillip Kidd says.

In the incident report, Officer Eric Weibel wrote that “Officer Kidd told me that he witnessed the Honda Accord drag Officer Tensing, and that he witnessed Officer Tensing fire a single shot.”


Any Excuse for Another War

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Since the accord with Iran over its nuclear program, the airways have been awash with calls for Congress to squash deal, demanding a “better deal.” Most of that is coming from the pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The agreement is also opposed by pro-Israel Christian organizations. While sounding like they want peace, behind the scenes they are actually pushing for a war with Iran. That fact was revealed by The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald:

The fanatical Israel-devoted group Christians United for Israel, which calls itself “the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States with over two million members,” yesterday held an off-the-record call to formulate strategies for defeating the pending nuclear deal with Iran. The star of the show was the Wall Street Journal’s longtime foreign affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens, who spoke for roughly 30 minutes. A recording of this call was provided to The Intercept and is posted here.

Stephens, who previously served as editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post from 2002 to 2004 (where he anointed Paul Wolfowitz “Man of the (Jewish) Year”), is essentially a standard-issue neocon and warmonger, which is why his mentality is worth hearing. He begins the strategy call with an attempt to sound rational and sober, but becomes increasingly unhinged and hysterical as he progresses. [..]

If the Iran deal is defeated in the U.S., what’s the alternative? The relatively honest neocons admit, as Norm Podhoretz did today in Stephens’ paper, that the alternative is the one they really seek: full-on war with Iran. Here is Stephens’ attempt to answer to that question:

   Look, there is an argument – and I am sometimes tempted by it – that if Congress were to reject this deal and then Iran were to start enriching uranium at huge rates once again, that President Obama would simply sit on his hands out of spite. That’s an option. Knowing the way this President operates, it doesn’t entirely surprise me. That being said, because this deal is effectively giving Iran a legal as well as a covert pathway to the bomb, I would still prefer that. At least it gives the next president more options than he does [sic] now.

This argument is just bizarre. Obama isn’t leaving office until January, 2017: 1 1/2 years away. Neocons have continuously claimed that Iran’s “breakout” time for developing nuclear weapons was measured in months – at the most a year away. If you actually believe that, and really think that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons (a claim negated by the U.S.’s own intelligence analysis), how could you be content to purposely wait 1 1/2 years?

The answer to that question illustrates why the surface “debate” over the Iran deal is so illusory and pointless: as usual with neocons, they are being deceitful about their actual intent. They don’t want a “better deal”: at least not one that’s plausible. They want to keep Iran isolated and demonized and ultimately to depose its leadership through war or other means of aggression. They hate the Iran deal precisely because it’s likely to avert that aggression and normalize the world’s relations with that country, making the war they’ve long craved much less likely.

These people are unhinged supporters of Israel and the Saudis. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel are vehemently opposed to the Iran deal because they want the US to fight their war with Iran for them. The more the US talks with Iran the less likely it is that they and their fanatical supporters will get their war.  

The Breakfast Club (Our Times Have Come)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Ranger 7 beams lunar pictures; France’s Marquis de Lafayette makes his name in the American Revolution; Thomas Eagleton withdraws as George McGovern’s running mate; Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

If the liberties of the American people are ever destroyed, they will fall by the hands of the clergy.

Marquis de Lafayette

On This Day In History July 31

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 31 is the 212th day of the year (213th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 153 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1948, the Broadway musical “Brigadoon” closed after 581 performances. It originally opened on March 13, 1947 at the Ziegfeld Theater. It was directed by Robert Lewis and choreographed by Agnes de Mille. Ms. De Mille won the Tony Award for Best Choreography. The show was had several revival and the movie starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse premiered in 1954.

Brigadoon is a musical with a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. Songs from the musical, such as “Almost Like Being in Love” have become standards.

It tells the story of a mysterious Scottish village that appears for only one day every hundred years, though to the villagers, the passing of each century seems no longer than one night. The enchantment is viewed by them as a blessing rather than a curse, for it saved the village from destruction. According to their covenant with God, no one from Brigadoon may ever leave, or the enchantment will be broken and the site and all its inhabitants will disappear into the mist forever. Two American tourists, lost in the Scottish Highlands, stumble upon the village just as a wedding is about to be celebrated, and their arrival has serious implications for the village’s inhabitants.

Late Night Karaoke

The Daily/Nightly Show (The Force Awakens)


Reagan’s Eyesocket

Gay Eureka Springs

Next week’s guests-

Thursday is of course Jon Stewart’s last episode as host.

There is a near certain probability J.J. Abrams will be on to talk about Mission Impossible which if I haven’t mentioned it before I find entirely derivative and uninspired, the acting terrible and wooden, and the action sequences cliched and boring; only some of which was true about the original TV version.

Now I’d be just as happy if J.J. would talk about his uncredited writing for the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode, The Drill, but I suspect most of you would find the topic a little arcane.  What I would like to find out about (and I suspect most of you also) is the Disney reboot of Star Wars due for ek’smas, The Force Awakens.

Thinning the Herd

Tonightly we will be talking about Sam DuBose and Plantation Weddings with our panel Robin Thede, Ed Helms, and BIG K.R.I.T..

You stop being racist and I’ll stop talking about it.

The real news below.

Told you so.

New Zealand Prime Minister Admits Drug Prices Will Rise Under TPP — Leaves Out The Part About More People Dying

by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt

Thu, Jul 30th 2015

As we’re in the middle of crunch time for the final TPP negotiations, New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key has finally admitted what many experts have been saying for years — that under the TPP, drug prices will undoubtedly rise, because it extends monopoly protections on important medicines. Key tries to play this off as no big deal, because it’s the government paying for the medicine so the public won’t notice (leaving aside the fact that it’s their tax dollars). However, folks who actually understand basic economics note that, when the price goes up, access to drugs gets more difficult even in New Zealand, where it’s noted that some key life saving drugs have not been made available because they’re too expensive.

Back in the US, even a bunch of Congresscritters who voted in favor of giving the USTR fast track authority appear to be having a bit of buyer’s remorse as they’ve asked the USTR to explain why it appears the current draft of the TPP will make drugs more expensive rather than less.

And even the AARP has stepped in to point out that it appears the TPP is going to make it more difficult for the US elderly to afford drugs.

How can the USTR and the Obama administration continue to insist that the TPP is in the public interest when it’s abundantly clear that it’s in the pharmaceutical companies’ interests instead?

Getting the Facts Straight About the Clintons

For the last twenty years the mainstream media and the Clinton’s political adversaries have tried to discredit and criminalize them. In the process it has not only failed but done a disservice to the public just to get a “scoop” or score political points. The latest fiasco at The New York Times involving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server for her correspondence, has exposed the use of unreliable anonymous sources to create a story that was blatantly false. It exposed a pattern of toxic reporting on the Clinton’s, as Jonathan Allen at Vox called the “Clinton Rules

The reporter’s job is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” – a credo that, humorously, was originally written as a smear of the self-righteous nature of journalists. And so the justification for going after a public figure increases in proportion to his or her stature. The bigger the figure, the looser the restraints.

After a quarter of a century on the national stage, there’s no more comfortable political figure to afflict than Hillary Clinton. And she’s in for a lot of affliction over the next year and half.

That’s generally a good way for reporters to go about their business. After all, the more power a person wants in our republic, the more voters should know about her or him. But it’s also an essential frame for thinking about the long-toxic relationship between the Clintons and the media, why the coverage of Hillary Clinton differs from coverage of other candidates for the presidency, and whether that difference encourages distortions that will ultimately affect the presidential race.

The Clinton rules are driven by reporters’ and editors’ desire to score the ultimate prize in contemporary journalism: the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton and her family’s political empire. At least in that way, Republicans and the media have a common interest.

As Eric Boehler at Media Matters points out, if you’re surprised by this that you haven’t been paying attention. From Whitewater to Benghazi the pattern has been very clear:

(T)he Times remains the country’s most influential news outlet and the daily has been carrying around an unmistakable Clinton grudge for nearly 20 years. And it’s a collective disdain for the Clintons that stretches from the opinion pages to the newsroom that arguably leads to spectacular blunders like the one we saw last week.

There seems to be a world view within the Times that taking cheap shots at the Clintons is not only allowed, it’s preferred; it’s a way for Times journalists to raise their profiles and generate buzz. But not only is the practice unfair and unethical, it carries with it profound political implications.

Apparently making no effort to check with the lead Democrat on the panel about the anonymous claims of a criminal referral — Rep. Elijah Cummings would have demolished the entire premise of the gotcha story — the Times essentially acted as stenographer for sources who either manufactured the claim about a criminal referral or unknowingly botched the facts.

The Times‘ oddly personal crusade against Hillary Clinton is also a crusade against the Democratic frontrunner for president, so the Republican Party benefits. The stakes really could not be higher, which makes the Times‘ behavior all the more disturbing.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow weighed in on the misreporting and clumsy handling of the story and makes note of the similar excuses the Times used about Judith Miller’s sources on her bad Iraq WMD reporting.

Kurk Eichenwald at Newsweek puts it bluntly in his analysis of the Times debacle:

Democracy is not a game. It is not a means of getting our names on the front page or setting the world abuzz about our latest scoop. It is about providing information so that an electorate can make decisions based on reality. It is about being fair and being accurate. This despicable Times story was neither.


The Breakfast Club (Reactionless Drive)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgOr maybe not quite so reactionless but certainly a puzzle if true.  Conventional rockets operate on the sound Newtonian principle that every action (in a vacuum where there are no other significant factors to consider) has an equal and opposite reaction.  Essentially it’s an outgrowth of the concept that the total energy of a closed system does not change.  If your closed system is you and some mass you can separate and propel away and the intitial state is that you are motionless with respect to each other and some arbitrary fixed point, when you propel that mass it does indeed move away from you but you also move away from it and also relative to your fixed point in proportion with the ratio of the mass you have acted on to you, and the velocity with which you have propelled it away.

Up until Robert Goddard many scientists were under the misconception that you needed something to push against and that therefore flight in a space environment was impossible when it’s really not and quite conventional reactions will work provided you supply them with the chemicals needed (for instance liquid oxygen and kerosene).

However even advanced propulsion systems like Ion Drives rely on kinetic energy to create thrust.  What makes them attractive and revolutionary is that they are very fuel efficient and can, since they operate fairly continuously compared to chemical rockets which go very fast initially and then coast the rest of the time, achieve quite high velocities… eventually.

What makes the EmDrive different is that it doesn’t seem to rely on kinetic energy at all.

Instead you set up a resonating microwave in a sealed cavity and out comes measurable thrust.  Oh sure, you need to add energy to the system in the form of electricity, but solar panels are good for that so essentially you have a drive with an unlimited fuel supply.

How does it work?  Nobody knows and the math to tune the microwave and the cavity is really tricky, but the parts are very cheap and almost every country that has a space program is examining prototypes.

What makes it news and not just some elaborate perpetual motion scam is that Martin Tajmar, professor and chair for Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology who has a reputation for tracking down experimental error, has duplicated the previous results and is presenting a paper on it.

While it’s not some faster than light warp drive it does solve some fundamental problems in planetary exploration, NASA projects that even at modest output levels it could reduce the time needed for a probe to reach Pluto from 9 years to 18 months.

The ‘impossible’ EmDrive could reach Pluto in 18 months

by David Hambling, Wired

24 July 15

Last summer WIRED revealed that Nasa’s Eagleworks Lab was testing a copy of the EmDrive, a propulsion device frequently labelled as “impossible” because it appears to violate the law of conservation of momentum. Against all expectation they found it produced thrust. The response from the scientific community was dramatic, and generally sceptical — but the “anomalous thrust” stubbornly refuses to disappear as more research zeroes in on it.

(T)he subject is attracting serious examination from scientists who want to know if a sealed cavity filled with resonating microwaves can really produce net thrust. Previously the effect has been measured by British scientist Roger Shawyer, who invented the EmDrive, and a Chinese team, as well as Nasa.

(Tajmar)has investigated claims of “electrostatic torque,” a twisting force meant to occur between charged spheres, and found the supposed anomaly was due to a slight asymmetry in the experimental setup. His work on claims of gravitational shielding with spinning superconductors had led to a better understanding of sources of error in high-precision gyroscope measurements. These are cases where an apparatus apparently producing small anomalous forces needed to be examined closely.

The same applies to the EmDrive. The obvious sources of error — air currents, leaking microwaves, ionisation — have long ago been ruled out. But this is the first time that someone with a well-equipped lab and a strong background in tracking experimental error has been involved, rather than engineers who may be unconsciously influenced by a desire to see it work.

Science Oriented Video

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science News and Blogs

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History July 30

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 30 is the 211th day of the year (212th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 154 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare, a health insurance program for elderly Americans, into law. At the bill-signing ceremony, which took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, had become the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at the time by Congress.

The Medicare program, providing hospital and medical insurance for Americans age 65 or older, was signed into law as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966. In 1972, eligibility for the program was extended to Americans under 65 with certain disabilities and people of all ages with permanent kidney disease requiring dialysis or transplant. In December 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), which added outpatient prescription drug benefits to Medicare.

Medicaid, a state and federally funded program that offers health coverage to certain low-income people, was also signed into law by President Johnson on July 30, 1965, as an amendment to the Social Security Act.

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